The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield is a 135 page story for young audiences written by John Bemelmans Marciano and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. It revolves around a spoiled boy who’s the sole survival of a wealthy family of no-gooders, all of whom have a history of horrible deaths. In an attempt to outsmart Death, Alexander seeks the help of a mad scientist and is implanted with the nine lives of a common house-cat. The boy takes full advantage of this by wasting his new lives on reckless activities, such as bull-fighting.
The first half of the book is rather boring: an explanation of what happened to the rest of Alexander’s family. The second half, however, gives the reader a bit more entertainment in the form of schadenfreude; if nothing else, this half was more enjoyable because the rude protagonist is met with a string of horrible deaths. That said, I wouldn’t read this to a child under the age of ten—unless he or she exudes qualities similar to this story’s lead, in which case it might not be a bad idea to give them a lesson of karma in the form of a gruesome children’s story.
If there is to be one positive trait about Alexander, it is that he is fearless, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Often times, fearlessness leads to recklessness (and ultimately, recklessness leads to the dark side). To have a boy disregard the lives of those around him is one thing, but to brush off nine lives of his own? ‘Tis foolishness, to say the least.
My criticism comes from the way the story is told, not so much its wonderful illustrations. Children’s novels are often peppered with subtle adult references and innuendos so that the parent reading to their children isn’t bored to tears. But those particular tropes are too thickly spread throughout the Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield to the point that it hinders the plot and drags on much longer than needed. Additionally, the level of gruesome isn’t consistent. Sometimes he pops two lungs and is rammed through the heart with a bull’s horn, other times he’s killed without the least bit of description and slips into death before returning to life.
If you think you and your children would enjoy reading a snarky novel about a brat who kills himself nine times, feel free to enter my ARC giveaway by posting in the comments below. You have until September 15th, and the book won't be out until October 3rd.
Looking for something more entertaining to read? Check out E.L. Smith's latest blog post here, http://www.creativewritingtime.com/e-l-smith.html , or you can scroll down for my review of the Broken Empire, by Mark Lawrence (there's a giveaway happening there as well).